15 Rome (Civitavecchia) Holiday Cruise Reviews

First time on Norwegian after a previous cruise with Crystal. No attempts at comparisons here, just an honest review of our experience. Jade chosen for route and schedule and my wife and I were in cabin 11654 , an aft facing cabin. Cabin ... Read More
First time on Norwegian after a previous cruise with Crystal. No attempts at comparisons here, just an honest review of our experience. Jade chosen for route and schedule and my wife and I were in cabin 11654 , an aft facing cabin. Cabin - large mini suite with plenty of room due to its disabled facilities. Very comfortable and no noise to speak off. Relaxing view and wave sound from the good size balcony. Food - we did not have a bad meal on the ship. It was only on the second last night when we ate in Alizar that we felt the menu was a bit underwhelming. But the food that night was still good. We had the Ultimate Dining package and that was good value with all the options serving very good food. Breakfasts were always good and thanks to Mr Coffee Coffee and Mr washy Washy, a fun place to start your day. Staff - all the staff were great and it was good that many times they would stop to engage and not just serve. Entertainment - a mixed bag but not unexpected given the many different nationalities on board. Tenors of Rock, the Gymnasts and the Jadegirls with their 60's nights were standouts. Nathaniel Reed was a terrific piano bar player and host. Pretty much all the other entertainment options were provided and were more than satisfactory. Excursions - the few that we used were good value, especially the Sorrento and Pompeii tour through Naples. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
The first impression upon walking through the corridors was the smell of perspiration; then the second is the smell of perspiration in our room. Then the strong smell of perspiration on our pillows. We asked for new ones, and were given ... Read More
The first impression upon walking through the corridors was the smell of perspiration; then the second is the smell of perspiration in our room. Then the strong smell of perspiration on our pillows. We asked for new ones, and were given four "new" ones that still smelled awful. I asked our steward to please get us new ones, from a new sealed package. This seemed to do the trick, but then they changed the pillows several times during our 11-day trip, and we got the sweaty smelly ones again. I realize they have a short time to clean the rooms before the next group of travellers get on board, but the ship rugs, upholstery, and mattresses need a good cleaning and the pillows need to be replaced with new ones. It really ruined our trip. The food in the two main dining rooms was good and staff was wonderfully pleasant and couldn't do enough for you. The dining room that had the buffet style dining was a mad-house, and we didn't eat there again. The food at the buffet was good, and plenty of variety, but it was so crowded that they kept running out of silverware and coffee. Shows were awful in the beginning of the cruise, (we actually got up and left, as did others), but got better as cruise went along. We were on the cruise for Christmas week and were disappointed with the decorating. A little more effort would have been appreciated. We were with another couple and they had the same complaints. I don't usually complain about things, but the smell thing really turned me off. I guess you get what you pay for ($609 for 11 days) Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We chose a back to back Christmas cruise including the New Year celebrations which was very reasonable in price. We chose an inside cabin, which was a little small but adequate. We found the ship very cheerful and staff very pleasant and ... Read More
We chose a back to back Christmas cruise including the New Year celebrations which was very reasonable in price. We chose an inside cabin, which was a little small but adequate. We found the ship very cheerful and staff very pleasant and felt very much at home for the three weeks. The destinations on shore were very interesting, and both Christmas Day and New Years Eve were spent at sea and NCL went to great trouble to entertain us. The shows in the Theatre were outstanding, despite the fact that this was a back to back cruise, there was minimal repetition of the shows. The show "Elements" was world class and a credit to NCL:. The food in the MDR was excellent and the staff were most obliging, efficient and faultless. In the evening time we like to dance - and we were very well catered for by the 'Guys and Doll' group. This was a north American band and they made sure that everyone's dancing tastes were catered for each evening. This included - waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, tango, merengue, mambo, rumba, cha cha, line dancing etc. Having cruised fifteen times before with different cruise lines, this was our first encounter with such a dedicated dance band - which made our cruise so very enjoyable! It was a pleasure to be on the Norwegian Jade as so many cruise lines are cutting down on the dance area and the bands are not as accommodating as we found on the Jade. Kevin and Mary Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We booked directly with Celebrity in order to secure a five hundred dollar on board credit. This came in useful when paying our wine and bar bill. Beware prices for drinks are high. The Reflection at less than a year old and is very ... Read More
We booked directly with Celebrity in order to secure a five hundred dollar on board credit. This came in useful when paying our wine and bar bill. Beware prices for drinks are high. The Reflection at less than a year old and is very impressive. The sweeping central atrium is beautiful, the cabins are pristine with modern decor and the bars are exciting night time venues. Although we were slightly disappointed with the evening entertainment there were some stand out acts. 'These Guys', a group of four young Californian men were sensational. The comedy venue 'Sin City' show was great entertainment. Ask any guy who watched this show if they remember Sarah Storey, the Australian burlesque dancer. Overall the shore trips were well organised, but a little uninspiring. The food was never something to rave about, but consistently good. We soon learnt that the meat choices were by far the best. The buffet had plenty of choice and we always found a table outside to sit, both for breakfast and lunch. Both embarkation and disembarkation were efficient but a 6.30 start meant that Celebrity got us to the airport with three and a half hours to go before our flight to Birmingham. Overall a very pleasant cruise, but we came away saying we would like to try another cruise company next time. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Let me start by saying that despite the date showing on the calendar, the weather was summer hot, hot, hot. The itinerary was outstanding with a good mix of four countries. While some of the reviews I have read on the Mariner of the ... Read More
Let me start by saying that despite the date showing on the calendar, the weather was summer hot, hot, hot. The itinerary was outstanding with a good mix of four countries. While some of the reviews I have read on the Mariner of the Seas mentioned that the ship was old and tired is absurd. The ship is clean and well maintained and the staff were more than accommodating. While I don't utilize alot of the amenities such as the rock climbing wall, mini golf, basketball court, etc, etc,...there is something for everyone at every age and taste. The ice show as well as the nightly shows were entertaining and enjoyable and offered lots of variety. The dining room still leaves alot to be desired although RCL did come up a notch since my last cruise. The days that the dining room was open for lunch, offered a great salad bar. Fresh and tasty and certainly no shortage of choices. The Windjammer buffet style cafe, was not at all up to par for any cruise. The food was cold and literally tasteless and seemed to be the same every day. Fighting for a seat at lunchtime was frustrating. And I must say the hamburger I had on the first day was the last. It was very very bad. While I didn't go to the speciality restaurants, I did hear from other passengers that the experience was most enjoyable. I don't feel that I should have to pay extra to have a good meal. It should be the norm for all places where you eat on a cruise ship. I never could quite understand the need for a "head waiter" as I really don't see that they do anything other than come to your table and give some quick small talk to try to justify the tip they expect at the end of the cruise. My first cuise was in the '70's and the entire atmosphere has definitely changed. Some changes for the good and some for the other. Prices for alcohol have gone through the roof and I did notice that on this cruise, I witnessed very few passengers partaking in a libation or two. At $12 for a glass of wine and $6.90 for a beer, the cruise lines are pricing themselves out of the pleasure of taking more money from their patrons. I don't get it. Why don't they sell for a reasonable price and they would sell more!! The balcony room (cat. D1) we had was more than acceptable and kept very clean by our cabin personnel. The mattresses however, left me with a sore back and begging to have it replaced. Dreadful. The itinerary was very well thought out, although the Chania (Crete) port could have been replaced with a more enjoyable Greek Island. Rhodes was spendid and being able to walk directly into town, was a bonus. The two ports in Israel - Ashdod and Haifa were special for me since they were two places I had visited on my first cruise back in the '70's. Long days in port allowed for great tours on land. Ephesus was an especially great port for me as it was one of the reasons I choose this cruise. And I was not disappointed. It is truly a place every cruiser should visit. In my opinion, it is better than the Acropolis and more preserved - the Terrace Houses is a MUST. The stop in Athens was my fourth visit, so offered little in the way of WOW factor other than the riot police with shields in place. Did not witness a riot however, must have just missed the action. Although there was a taxi strike the day we landed, we managed quite well on the open air hop on - hop off bus to get to the sights. Palermo offered a chance to visit the Capuchin Catacombs which was very interesting. There are 8,000 mummified bodies arranged on the walls of a grotto. The stop in Naples gave us an opportunity to tour the Amalfi coast and Pompeii. What a spectacular sight and the views were heartstopping. We visited Sorrento, Poaitano, Amalfi and Revello with a final stop at Pompeii. The days at sea were welcomed as the days before were spent on tiring tours so the chance to chill out was appreciated. All in all the cruise was well worth the time and money. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I was a bit apprehensive about embarking on my first cruise as I always suffer from seasickness. I really didn't have to worry as the ship was huge and very stable. My travel agent suggest picking a cabin mid-ship and we chose one ... Read More
I was a bit apprehensive about embarking on my first cruise as I always suffer from seasickness. I really didn't have to worry as the ship was huge and very stable. My travel agent suggest picking a cabin mid-ship and we chose one on the Upper Promenade deck. Its was semi obscured but it suited us fine, with plenty of room and light. My husband who thought he would be bored was amazed at how busy we were. The days were filled with shore excursions, eating, swimming, eating, going to the many classes, lectures and exhibitions on board, eating, using the library and Internet, eating again, shopping on-board, you guessed it, eating. We saw a different show every night and if we had been so inclined gambled in the casino. As you have already gathered the food was amazing from the poolside grill to the five star night at Le Cirque. Silver service breakfasts and high teas...yum. We spent 20 amazing nights touring both the Eastern & Western Mediterranean, made lots of new friends and saw some wonderful sights. If you have never cruised before, do it! I can certainly recommend the Holland America cruise line. The staff are wonderful and nothing is too much trouble. If it can be done for you it will be. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We are a family of 4 and we have sailed with Royal Caribbean and with Norwegian in the past. This was our first Celebrity Cruise on the lovely Silhouette. We had originally booked it because it was scheduled to go to Egypt, we stuck with ... Read More
We are a family of 4 and we have sailed with Royal Caribbean and with Norwegian in the past. This was our first Celebrity Cruise on the lovely Silhouette. We had originally booked it because it was scheduled to go to Egypt, we stuck with it because our travel agent said we would love it! We checked in after a 5 day stay in Rome. Civitavecchia was a 45 minute train ride to the port. Very easy and cost effective. What was not so pleasant was the shuttle system from the pier entrance. It was poorly organized and there was no defined place to stand and wait for the shuttle to check-in. We basically had to read the sign on the shuttles arriving to make sure it was going to our ship and make a run for it. After 3 attempts we finally got our luggage stored under the bus and got some seats. A big free for all with a me first attitude. Not so fun with kids in towe. Once we arrived to the check-in tents, yes, tents....the luggage porters motioned for passengers to load their own luggage onto the carts which was a first time experience for us on a cruise. The benefits of a concierge class booking made no difference upon check in. Actually, people who took the train with us from Rome who had standard rooms made it through their line faster than us. Our daughter's luggage arrived to the stateroom damaged and an item was missing. After all this was done and forgotten we did begin to enjoy this beautiful ship. The ship is very elegant and stylish. I loved it but the kids found it boring compared to the Allure which we sailed on last March. We, my husband and I, thought it was a great size and had everything a couple could want. Adult activities were plentiful and we certainly enjoyed the wine tasting events. The sommeliers were informative and pleasant and it made for lovely and pleasant afternoons on sea days. Our 16 and 9 year old children enjoyed the Fun Factory and the X-club however the amenities for children on a ship like the Silhouette were for the most part non-existent compared to what they have experienced on RCCL and Norwegian. The biggest disappointment was the small pool on the pool deck and the fact that only half of it was made available to the 400 children on board during our sailing. There was no kids pool area. The service level we experienced was fabulous throughout the cruise. It was exceptional at Bistro on 5, Murano, Tuscan Grill and Qsine. The specialty restaurants were delectable! Where the service was mediocre was at the ilounge and at the buffet. There were a few people that worked in the ilounge but the guy who seemed to oversee the lounge was arrogant and easily flustered which led him to speak without a fliter in a very unprofessional manner. We tried to avoid the buffet the most part but on the days where we had to go there we found that it was a little less polished and the wait staff was generally more aloof. It might have had something to do with the "Me first attitude" of many of the guests on board and the general pushiness of the guests in crowded areas and on the elevators. This brings us to the culture of the guests on board. This European cruise was a first for us so I'm not sure if this is just the way it is or if this was unique to the dynamic of the guests on the cruise for this particular sailing. One thing Celebrity must resolve is the inability of the pool butlers to execute Celebrity's no reservation policy of chairs on the pool deck. The amount of reserved chairs not being used for several hours at a time was ridiculous and even more ridiculous was that people were saving 2 sets of chairs. One set in sunspots and the other in shaded areas. The ports were fabulous and I can't really comment on the shore excursions because we booked all our ours independently through local tour guides. If I had a magic want though, we would have had a full day in Santorini, the 6 hours were just too short once you factored in tender time to get on and off the ship. I would have easily traded the 3rd day in Israel for and extra day in Greece. Do not walk up or down those steps in Santorini. Big mistake unless you like navigating donkey poop on marble steps. Our Stateroom was very clean, new, elegant and would have been perfect for the 2 of us. It was a little crammed for 4 people and I found the storage area above the beds hard to reach. The bathroom was nice and spacious and the storage there was plentiful. We did not really order canapes so I am not sure I would book Concierge class again. The 4th bed was a trundle and I do not like the set up. It makes the balcony near impossible to get to after turn down service. We much prefer the pullman system. The shows were good and our cruise director was very entertaining but we only saw him on stage. As a family we agreed that we preferred the shows we saw on the Allure though. We found the ones on this sailing got repetitive after 3-4 nights. What we did love was the live entertainment on the pool deck, in the lounges and throughout the ship. There was a fabulous a Capella group from Michigan and a lovey Jazz band that accompanied our new favorite jazz singer Azure McCall. She was simply sensational! What a voice! The Captain was adorable! Being of Greek descent I guess he couldn't help it! His daily updates were witty and charming. Disembarkation was quite easy but again when it came to the shuttles, directions to the shuttles were non-existent and getting on was another free for all reminiscent of embarkation. Party was over!!! Loud and clear!!! In summary, my husband and I would love to cruise with Celebrity again once we are empty nesters. We know we will enjoy elegant and refined surroundings with delectable food and wine with excellent service. If and when we do, will will go out of our way to avoid boarding any ship in Chivitavecchia. Until then, we will likely stick with RCCL. Same company more suited to families. I will miss Murano until then that's for sure! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We arrived at Rome airport and were greeted by Celebrity staff and when we had retrieved our bags they were taken by Celebrity to be transported to the ship we were then taken to our coach for the 65 minute transfer to the port the whole ... Read More
We arrived at Rome airport and were greeted by Celebrity staff and when we had retrieved our bags they were taken by Celebrity to be transported to the ship we were then taken to our coach for the 65 minute transfer to the port the whole procedure was so smooth and efficient On arrival at the port we had no waiting time and were on the ship very quickly we then went to have lunch in the Ocean view which was excellent before going to our stateroom our bags arrived within an hour The ship is beautiful our stateroom on the starboard side was very comfortable and we relaxed before the ship sailed for our first port Santorini The itinerary was excellent and we had overnight in Istanbul where we had 2 tours booked we also booked a tour in Santorini which was well worth the trip as we saw the island the only drawback was the very long wait at the cable car at the end of the tour (we were told there are long queues) but very exhausting in the heat! The ship was spotless the staff attentive and friendly the entertainment very good We had the 9pm sitting for dinner in Britannia and the staff there were excellent as was the food We were celebrating my daughters birthday and there was a song performed by the staff much to the amusement of the guests ! We have used celebrity before on the Eclipse and the standard on Equinox was equally high we have already booked on Eclipse for a cruise next year The itinerary was excellent I would have liked longer at the beach at Mykanos on a tour which was 4 hours duration and would have prefered to just use a beach closer to the ship and then see more of the town Istanbul is a huge city Kusadasi a crazy shopping area with mega fake goods ! We did not go to Ephesus (too hot) and Salerno was interesting as we had already "done" Amalfi Naples and Sorrento previously To sum up Celebrity is our favourite cruise line as the standards are very good I hope they will keep it up Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We hope you will find some helpful hints here on how to do this cruise yourself - no ship's tours or transfers. We arrived at the Rome airport two days prior to the cruise, and followed the signs to the train. Buy the train tickets to ... Read More
We hope you will find some helpful hints here on how to do this cruise yourself - no ship's tours or transfers. We arrived at the Rome airport two days prior to the cruise, and followed the signs to the train. Buy the train tickets to Termini station at a kiosk in the train station (14euros ). Be sure you board the train marked Leonardo express - not the one marked Ostia. From termini (Rome's central train station) we walked to our hotel (Hotel Diocleziano.) After two scorching hot but splendid days in Rome, we walked back to Termini and took the train to Civitavecchia (4.5 euros, buy at ticket machine.) Upon arrival at Civitavecchia, turn right out of the station (there are a lot of stairs to climb up and down at this station). After 10-15 minutes, you will see the gate to the port on your left. Just inside the gate to the left is the bus stop for the free port shuttle. Board the bus marked with your ship's name. Boarding was fast (at 1400.) Room was ready, lunch being served (more about the "buffet" later.) We had an inside category N cabin, which was the smallest cabin we have ever had. However, it was just fine, spotless, and had a flat screen TV and dvd player (free dvd's to borrow), as well as a mini-bar. It's ok to bring on your own wine. The ship charges 69.00 per person for transfers from the port to the airport or the city, and if you have luggage this actually might be a good option for you. Believe it or not, we travel with carryon only, so we just took the train back to Rome (if you want to go the airport from the port, you need to take the train to Termini, and then another train to the airport.) Ship information: Cabin - as mentioned, an inside cabin. Very small, no room for in-room dining, not enough drawer space, but lots of closet space, and room under the beds for luggage storage. All in all, great value. There were spa toiletries in the shower (in dispensers) - Elemis shampoo, conditioner and body wash, all excellent. Bathrobes are provided, as is a Holland America tote bag. Library /Internet cafe - very well stocked library. Lots of computers to use, but absolutely no need to do that on this itinerary. We will mention the free wifi spots on shore later - do bring a smart phone and / or netbook. Drinks - average price 6.75, two happy hours a day when you can buy the second identical drink for 1.00. Drink of the day 5.75. Pop in cans 1.95. 15%added to all prices. Coffee bar in library/computer area for espresso/latte drinks, around 3.00. Some wines for 4.50 per glass. Casino - very smoky, the usual slot machines and table games. Entertainment - minimal entertainment, average to fair quality. Don't count on this ship to entertain you. Dining - main dining room - there is a choice of early or late sitting, and also "as you wish dining." You just show up whenever you like, and request a table for however many you prefer. Unlike previous posters,however, we did not have to wait long for the main dining room "any time" dining - just put your name in, and sit in the nearby lounge with a glass of wine, listening to the string trio - even my 22 year old daughter enjoyed that. The service is unobtrusive (slow), the portions are miniscule, but the food tastes great. Dining - "buffet" - okay here it is. I wish I could give a more positive review than previous posters, but in a word, the "buffet" set up is horrific. It is cafeteria style, where you have to wait in line for absolutely everything, and you can't help yourself either - portions are sparingly doled out by staff. You will lose weight on this cruise, I promise you. The line-ups were so long, I ended up having just rolls and butter for breakfast several times. However, if you do make it through the line-ups, the food (sparing as it is) is fantastic. You also have to dodge staff members who barricade the coffee station for some unknown reason. For the first two days of the cruise, passengers were not even allowed to help themselves to coffee or water, for "hygienic reasons." Even the poolside bbq was appalling, the food seemed to go on the bbq as passengers queued for it, so everyone had to wait for the kebabs to be grilled. Horrific! After waiting, we were given a single kebab with two tiny pieces of lamb. Bars - again, unlike previous posters, we were never harassed to buy drinks. In fact, I went to the Ocean bar one time and could not find a bartender or server to even get a drink at all. Tips - 11.00 per day per passenger is automatically added to your ship account. Tipping is not mentioned during the cruise, unlike other cruise lines that constantly allude to the "questions" you might have about tipping. It was refreshing not to hear the word mentioned. We didn't order room service but I would certainly give a couple of dollars for that. I did ask for a corkscrew, and they sent someone to open my bottle for me(no charge, so I certainly tipped). Gym - the usual, lots of treadmills and elliptical machines. No sauna/steam room except for guests who purchase a 10 day pass. Spa - we didn't use the spa services, but noticed that they have good specials on port days, but full prices are charged on sea days. Pools - they always seemed crowded and cramped. I have not noticed this on other cruise lines, but the layout here leaves something to be desired. However, it was very pleasant to sit at the tables poolside in the early morning with coffee. We actually preferred the Lido family pool over the Seaview adult pool because of the smoking at the adult pool. Muster drill - why cant cruise lines get their act together on this? We were made to stand for over half an hour in the broiling sun. unacceptable. Design - overall design of the ship is small, cramped and dark. This is unlike other cruise ships we have been on. Ports (and wifi options) Rome - we just walked and walked in this port. Take the metro to the piazza del popolo, and walk down via del Corso. Detour to the Spanish steps, and later the Trevi fountain or Piazza Navona. Plenty of cheap internet spots on the streets outside Termini. Dubrovnik - walk out of the port area, and the bus station is to the right. Exchange money into Croatian currency at the wicket here, then buy a ticket for the city bus at the next wicket. The bus stops on the road outside the station. You can exchange any unused currency again when you return to the station. Take the city bus to the gate to the old city. We didnt walk the wall as the line up was too long, but the old city is beautiful,just walk around it, and go down to the port. Wifi and computers available for a fee at the tourist office just inside the gate. Free wifi at Glam cafe (another espresso macchiato.) Corfu - head out of the port to the left, and walk around to the old city (it is well marked.) Free wifi at the port. We just walked around the old part of the town, all tourist shops and cafes, many with free wifi. Katakolon - the main part of town is basically right at the port. We did not go to Olympia, but there are cheap options to get there right from the port, no need to go on an expensive ship tour. Many cafes and shops, almost all cafes have free wifi. Athens - we walked to the metro (1.3euro). Free wifi at the port. Exit the port area to the left, about a 20minute walk. We changed metro lines to arrive at Acropoli station, very convenient. We did pay the entrance fee to access the Acropolis, a steep climb, and so crowded you wouldn't believe it. Lot's of great shopping in the Plaka area. Kusadasi - hmmm. We booked a tour from a company in the port shopping area, 20euros for Ephesus and Virgin Mary's house. After seeing Ephesus, you will wonder why you bothered to go to the Acropolis. We used the free wifi at the Starbucks in the port mall (ask for the access code.) We did not enter any shops at the port - we did not enjoy being accosted by every single shopkeeper in the place. Santorini - is as wonderful as you have heard. We felt sorry for the donkeys, so we took the cable car to the top (4euros). We rented ATVs (20euros for the whole day) and drove ourselves to Oia, the town with the iconic blue roofs. Back in Fira, the main port town, we had a relaxing late lunch (free wifi at many cafes). Messina - was almost completely closed, as it was Sunday. We ended up at the astronomical clock plaza, which did open for the tourists. At 12noon, the clock puts on a show that you should not miss. Free wifi on the street leading down from the clock (you will see the crew members sitting on the sidewalk.) I tried a cannoli (for the first time), it is their specialty - yum. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Background: This was our first cruise. We are a family of 5. We were joined by my sister, another first-time cruising family of 5, and my parents who have been on a number of prior cruises on various lines. The children's ages ranges ... Read More
Background: This was our first cruise. We are a family of 5. We were joined by my sister, another first-time cruising family of 5, and my parents who have been on a number of prior cruises on various lines. The children's ages ranges from 3 to 12 and my mother was in a wheelchair. Embarkation: Awful queues after bag drop where the health forms are completed in an unventilated tent with no air conditioning, which was a horrible experience. Also full of Italians who don't know how to queue! But after that the security and check-in process was very quick and efficient. Stateroom: We were in one of the Family rooms which was excellent - very large, separate sleeping area for the two bunk beds and a curtain to separate off the double bed from the sofa bed. I'd thoroughly recommend this room to any family of 5 or 6. Dining: Breakfast/lunch: The buffet in the Windjammer was a nightmare on most days. It seats about 700 for a ship of 3,600 passengers. Impossible to get a table (not helped by couples sitting on the large circular tables) and people were eating standing at the edge of the buffets. After the first day we either ate at times to avoid the queues (depending on when the excursions left) or ate in the restaurant on the days at sea, which isn't the same as even though anything can be ordered it somehow doesn't tick the boxes like a buffet does. Having said that the quality and choice of food was fantastic. Dinner: We ate fixed dining on the first sitting. Food was of an exceptionally high quality on 6 of the 7 nights. Our two waiters couldn't have done more - friendly attentive service, lots of little extras for the children and ensured that we were well catered for as most of our party were vegetarian. Activities: Plenty to do, especially for the children, with the swimming pools, rock climbing wall, ice skating rink, roller blading, mini golf etc. The mini golf was terribly disappointing - a few obstacles in the holes would have made it far more interesting. My only complaint was that the ice rink was only open twice for general skating the whole week - what's the point of having an ice rink and hardly ever being able to use it? My other complaint was concerning the arcade, which was fine in itself. However one machine took $1.25 from our card but then didn't work. I asked three times for the money to be refunded to our card, and was promised on each occasion that the refund would appear, but it never did. Although $1.25 is not a lot of money it was annoying to be promised something only to be let down. Children's Club: Disappointing. The range of activities was generally poor and the staff didn't seem so interested in the children. The activities in the 2 to 5 year old's club were mainly sticking, colouring and watching TV - something that can easily be done in the stateroom. Our three year old refused to go back again. After hearing from seasoned cruisers how amazing the children's clubs activities are we were disappointed. Service: on the whole fantastic. The waiters really excelled themselves and it was really only the table cleaners in the Windjammer that weren't so friendly. However we did have one cause to complain. At every opportunity you feel RCI are trying to sell you something or make money out of you. That's fine in itself. But when we left the ship in Athens (with someone in a wheelchair) we asked the people taking photos where to go and they said they'd only help us if we agreed to have our photo taken (which we didn't want). They then sent us to a building 100m away which was locked - it turned out we were supposed to wait for a bus. Back on the ship we complained to deaf ears - not even a hint of an apology. Entertainment: Mixed. Three great shows (Beatles review, ice skating and a street artist),one awful show (West End musicals review) and two uninteresting shows (Italian singer and ballroom dancing). No show on the first evening if eating at the first sitting which was also hugely disappointing. The cruise director (in charge of entertainment), a certain Warren Allen, was rude and awful. The evening ice show turned out to be the same as one the previous afternoon but this was never explained on the cruise compass (daily activity planner). That wasn't great as we had to sit there with the kids for over half an hour just to secure seats. When I asked the cruise director why it was the same show he reasonably explained that the ice rink only seats 700 so they need to repeat the show 4 times so everyone can see it. Fair enough. But when I asked why this wasn't explained on the cruise compass he told me it was. I still have the cruise compass and it wasn't. When I told him it wasn't he accused me of lying. All I was hoping for was an apology! Not the standard of serviceI expected. Excursions: Too expensive - we arranged our own. Disembarkation: Very efficient. We managed to leave 15 minutes before our allotted time. Luggage was easy to locate. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
As first-time cruisers, we were a little apprehensive after reading all the reviews on this site, particularly about the food. But we had nothing to worry about.We chose Costa because we wanted a Latin/European experience to cruise the ... Read More
As first-time cruisers, we were a little apprehensive after reading all the reviews on this site, particularly about the food. But we had nothing to worry about.We chose Costa because we wanted a Latin/European experience to cruise the Med. We didn't want to be on a ship full of Brits, Americans and Australasians. This cruise appeared to be good value for money, and WAS. Balcony cabins appear much more expensive on most other cruise-lines, and choosing the balcony cabin was the best thing we ever did.A couple of bits of advice from this website, prior to the cruise, are just so true.1. Just go with the flow. The organisation for all the bits and pieces always gets there.2. If you want 5 star food (as so many seem to expect) then you are on the wrong ship. 5 star food can be found on a five star ship. (and for that, your cruise will be twice the price)3. If you want lavish American style breakfast/lunch and dinner buffets, with huge steaks and rich sauces - then again, you are on the wrong ship. Book an American cruise.4. But if you want a true Latin/Euro experience on a large, newish and clean ship, fantastic crew who help you at every turn, excellent activities, heaps to do, lots of space to get away from the crowds, roomy cabins cleaned at least 3 times a day - then this IS the cruise for you.5. "If it's your first cruise - then make sure you get a balcony cabin" - thanks to whoever advised this. The inside cabins looked great, but for a first-time cruiser, it just was so good to be able to sit outside and watch what's going on.With Israel and Eygpt dropping off the itinerary, the stopovers became superfluous really. We just ended up having a great time on the boat. Izmir was the best stopover. Limassol in Cyprus was the worst. A really poor alternative to the deleted ports. Our balcony cabin was just so good. Special thanks to our cabin steward, Kristian who made such a difference. We spent a lot of time just chilling, reading etc. Most importantly, we slept really well. Better than most hotel rooms.Enjoyed level 5 - the entertainment floor. Something for everyone to do. It's a great ship if you've got teenage kids. Tended to spend a few evening hours in the Latin dancing floor area. Entertainment in the Stardust Theatre was very good most nights. Good talent with excellent production values. Good value for the cruise price.Used the gym quite a bit. Is spacious and well run. Suggested at end of cruise, that a small movie cinema would be more than useful. I see some cruiselines are introducing 3D cinemas etc. We sometimes felt like taking in a movie, and didn't use the cabin movie videos available, because the screen was too small. Lots of chatter online about the cost of add-ons - but it wasn't a problem for us. There was no hard-selling going on. If you intend to drink a bit, then the drinks packages are good value. Re water. Many people just re-filled water bottles in the buffet areas, rather than pay for bottled water all the time.We upgraded to the Blue Moon restaurant one night only, and it was fantastic. Worth the 20E each to have dinner alone for one night, with a sea-view table.Food - Breakfast was the same every day, but that was fine. There's an eggs station, which we utilised most mornings, had nice fruit, cereals, hams and cheeses, pastries.Lunch had varied themes, and enjoyed some nice meals.Lots of chat about the absence of an evening buffet, but we always made our 6.30pm sitting in the MDR after excursions, without a rush.Have to say the evening a la carte evening dinner routine just made the trip for us. We had a great table with 2 Polish and Australian families, and enjoyed their company a lot. Great Italian style atmosphere at dinner, which we loved. Wouldn't have been the same, just sitting on our own at a buffet table. Was a classy dinner environment, and I can now see why the cruiseline prefer this system. Got caught out a bit with the formal nights, especially the Captain's formal night. It was really dressy. Next time, I will be packing a nice suit.Now - the a la carte routine - and some advice for non-Euros/Italians to work it to your advantage.1. For some reason, or maybe we just chose the wrong thing, the food for the first couple of nights was nowhere near as good as it became. Serving sizes also increased as the cruise progressed.2. If you're a fan of seafood, then you can't go wrong anywhere on the menu. When in doubt about any dish, have the seafood. There are 4 standard menu dishes at the front of the menu for every night - and the salmon is great.3. Dishes don't have added salt and pepper, so utilise you're salt and pepper shakers.4. Any meat dish that has "wild" in front of its English translation is a must. The wild duck, pork, beef and lamb were the best meals of the trip.5. Ask for your beef to be medium rare. Your waiter will arrange this. Otherwise you may find it too tough. 6. If there's a dish you don't like, just ask something else. They are very obliging.7. If you really need some fries - then just ask them if you can also have some fries. They will provide them.Two unusual, and well documented aspects to the ship's food on offer. The pizza available at the 9pm buffet is really average, and not authentic. I see MSC Cruises have just put a press release out about how they are going to start offering authentic pizza, so I guess Costa will follow. They need to.Also - the pasta in the MDR was average early on, then became great later in the trip. Not sure how that works. However - will always remember our MDR experiences. Just be careful with your selections, and don't hesitate to send something back, and get it replaced. Can't wait for our next Costa cruise. Was really critical of Costa HQ for the poor communication for the itinerary changes. However it's not fair on the great crew, to take this into account for our actual cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Here's a few of comments on our experience on the Costa Magica: We had a balcony cabin in the middle of the ship right off the elevator. Amazingly enough it wasn't noisy despite the high traffic area. The cabin was larger and ... Read More
Here's a few of comments on our experience on the Costa Magica: We had a balcony cabin in the middle of the ship right off the elevator. Amazingly enough it wasn't noisy despite the high traffic area. The cabin was larger and more spacious than we had on both NCL and Princess. As stated by others who have been on the Magica, it took the whole cruise to figure out how to navigate the ship. I highly recommend that you get yourself one of the larger maps of the ship that the information desk and learn how to find your way around. One of the cruise critic members posted a very good explanation on how the cabins were numbered and the decks broken up. The most important lesson he gave was to look at the picture of the ship located at each elevator. It will indicate where you are and what direction the ship is pointed. When you get off the elevator look to see which direction you need to go so you won't get too frustrated trying to find your way to dinner. The Magica had two seatings for dinner. We chose the first seating and found our table mates extremely pleasant. We were all English speaking and enjoyed each other's company. In fact, the evening meal was the best part of the day with these folks. The other valuable thing I learned on cruise critic was about the 1X package for beer, wine, and water. We called our agent who called Costa and got the package for us. It saved us lots of money on drinks. This package allows you beer or wine by the glass and bottled water at lunch and dinner only. We tipped our waiter at the beginning and during the cruise and he kept our glasses filled. He also poured some for our dinner partners at our request. So each night at dinner we went through one or two bottles of wine and several of water. Big savings there. The breakfast buffet was not as expansive as is on NCL or Princess but it was adequate. We did not take advantage of the buffet for lunch so I am unable to comment. Dinner most nights was good but not outstanding. We did have one evening when they served lamb chops that everyone asked for seconds. We liked the pasta and the bread was great. If you wanted something in between meals you had to find the grill which was located at the very back of the ship where the indoor pool is. It was not like NCL where you could find food at all hours. One of the reasons that you don't see many obese Europeans, the portions were normal sized instead of supersized. I was happy about that. The coffee was only fair however you could buy cappuncino's and lattes that were pretty good. We got our "coffee fix" at the various ports where the espressos were great. The staff worked seven days a week, and usually stayed on the ship for several months. They all spoke excellent English. In addition there was an English speaking "host" by the name of Sean who was available at certain hours if you had questions. He wasn't very helpful with finding out about doing the ports on your own. He said that his job was to support the excursion so he was unwilling to give info on how to get around on public transportation.I surprized and disappointed since I found that the cruise director on NCL to be more than happy to tell you about what cheaper options available once on shore. Embarking and disembarking was the easiest of all. They had everything ready when you got there so all you had to do was go through screening and show you E tickets. Once you got to your room you found your room keys and info on setting up your credit card as well as the daily itinerary in English. They also provided a daily synopsis of the world news in the form of a little newspaper that was created on board. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We are a family of 7, my parent's being 82 and 75 years of age, my husband and I are in our late 40's, early 50's and our children are young adults, aged 24, 21 and 19. On 1 December 2010, our family of 7 flew out to join ... Read More
We are a family of 7, my parent's being 82 and 75 years of age, my husband and I are in our late 40's, early 50's and our children are young adults, aged 24, 21 and 19. On 1 December 2010, our family of 7 flew out to join the Star Princess cruise ship in Rome, where we had booked back to back cruises boarding in Rome on 4 December 2010 for our transatlantic cruise to Rio and then onto Antarctica before disembarking in Buenos Aires on 9 January 2011. Thursday 2 December 2010:On our arrival at Rome airport, Stefano, from Rome Cabs www.romecabs.com had arranged for us to be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel, (price for all 7 of us in large van with luggage was € 70). We stayed at the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora. Due to the fact that we had our elderly parents with us, we had booked their room for the night of the 1st as well, in order to ensure that they could at least get in and rest before official check-in time, as we were arriving early in the morning and did not want them to have to sit around for 5 hours. On arrival at the hotel, our bookings and rooms had all been mixed up, despite numerous confirmations. After sorting things out, we ended up staying in Room 608 which was wonderful, with a separate lounge. The hotel is situated on the Via Venitia and is close to lots of little restaurants etc. and is highly recommended. We had lost luggage problems and the hotel's PRO, Yolande stepped in and assisted us as best she could. (Our luggage saga sadly continued until the end of our first cruise where we were finally reunited with the lost luggage in Rio) Friday 3 December 2010:Had pre-arranged tour with Rome Cabs - (our guide was Maurizio who was absolutely wonderful). They had arranged wheelchairs for my parents as they struggle to walk long distances, (cost for 1 wheelchair was € 45-00, the other one was free) - they were an extremely professional company, who could not do enough for us. Due to our luggage saga, my husband and I had to miss out on some of the sights, but Stefano (Rome Cabs owner) arranged separate transport and a guide to take us to the airport to sort out the luggage, take us shopping to buy replacement clothing etc., to ensure that it did not impact on the rest of our family's tour. We were taken by Maurizio to the pyramid built for Caius Cestio, the ancient Roman Wall built by Emperor Aureliano, Circus Maximus, (the large ancient stadium for chariot races), Palatine Hill where the villas and the domus of the emperors were built, arch of Constantine, the Coloseum, the Roman Forum, the Piazza Venezia, Vittorio Emanuele Monument, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St.Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon, the famous piazzas and fountains that are famous in Rome, Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps. The tour price for all 7 of us in air-conditioned van was € 400-00, excluding entrance tickets which we booked on line ahead of time at Stefano's recommendation (Colloseum € 13-50 each, Vatican ticket combined with Sistine chapel € 19 each) but we also booked a Vatican guide for € 150, again at Stefano's recommendation, all very worthwhile. Lunch was at a very reasonable and delightful local restaurant recommended by Maurizio where the kids ate pizza and we enjoyed ragu (the authentic version of spaghetti bolognaise).Saturday 4 December 2010Sadly our luggage (which belonged to my elderly father) was still missing so once again we had to change our tour plans and Stefano again looked after us by sending us a separate van and guide to assist us with our final shopping needed due to lack of luggage. Late Saturday morning Maurizio transferred us to Civitavecchia port to join the Star Princess. This trip from Rome to Civitavecchia port took us approximately 1 ½ hours, (depends on traffic usually) the cost for all 7 of us including luggage was € 200.When we arrived at the port to check in for our cruise aboard Star Princess, both my mother and I (who have South African passports) were told we did not have our Moroccan visa's and therefore would not be allowed to board the ship, (we knew that we had definitely applied for and received them!) but after my husband took the passports back from the clerks involved, he found them in both passports quite easily! Once we had clarified the visa issue, we proceeded with our check-in and when we were handed our embarkation documents, we noticed for the first time that our cabin (E729) had been reassigned without explanation! When my husband originally booked this cabin a year before, it was confirmed that our cabins would not be changed due to us paying and booking so far ahead. We had booked these back to back cruises amounting to 36 days total and my husband had chosen this cabin specifically so that we could have a large enough balcony for all 7 of us in the family to be together in the evenings (E729 has a wonderful huge covered balcony fully aft so its also nice and private!)While upset that our cabin had been changed, we were delighted to find that the two cabins we had booked for our children had been upgraded from obstructed view to full balcony. And so it was with mixed feelings that we retired to our incorrect cabin grateful for the kids and disappointed for ourselves! After numerous calls late into the night, one of the senior pursers, Petra finally called me back to find out what my "problem" was. I explained my situation re our cabin and she said that she could not move us as there were no cabins available. When I explained to her that I could see plenty of available cabins on our original deck, including the one we had booked. She promised to phone me at 8am the next morning with a solution.Sunday 5 DecemberArrived in Florence for the day. Needless to say at 8am Petra did not phone me, luckily I managed to get hold of an incredibly sweet assistant purser, Carrie-Anne who was calm and professional and said that she would find out what was going on with our cabin and let me know. Petra finally phoned me just before 9am (when we were due to leave the ship for a pre-arranged tour) to tell me that they would move us to our original cabin booked, but she could not guarantee that we would be able to stay in this cabin for the duration of our cruises. (I still have not worked out why!)However after contacting our T/A Susan at Cruise Village who then emailed the ship we were able to remain in the same cabin for both cruises as originally booked!As we were now already late for our pre-booked tour, we told Petra that we would contact the front desk on our return to the ship that afternoon to move to our correct cabin. On returning to the ship late afternoon, we were at last able to move into our correct cabin, E729, where we finally unpacked and settled in!Monday 6 DecemberArrived in Cannes, France. Had great day touring with Michel of Revelation tours www.revelation-tours.com (pre-booked and recommended), who took us to Monaco where we enjoyed walking around the main shopping centre, but were disappointed to not be allowed into the casino as we were too early (it only opens at 2pm).After Monaco we visited Nice and had a brief look at the old town.Finally we also managed a brief tour of Cannes where we strolled along the La Croisette boulevard and visited the Palais de Festival site of the Cannes film festival where we had a chance to see all the stars handprints on the surrounding pavement and Nice. Tour cost for all 7 of us was € 490Tuesday 7 DecemberWe arrived in Barcelona, where we had not pre-booked anything, as we were not sure whether our parents would be up to so many day tours in a row. We were incredibly lucky to come across a wonderful guide by the name of Richard Naylor who had an air-conditioned van big enough for all 7 of us. His price was incredibly reasonable (although I cannot recall the amount now) and he was wonderfully attentive to my parents who struggled a bit. He took us to Las Ramblas, the Gaudi Cathedral, Picasso museum and recommended a wonderful Tapas restaurant very close to the museum, where we had a great lunch. When my parents were clearly tired, Richard took them back to the ship at no extra charge, leaving us to do some shopping. He then returned to fetch us. Our youngest son had always wanted to skateboard in Barcelona and he even managed to find a skate park for him to skate at! He looked after us from start to finish, went above all of our expectations, added in extra sights we hadn't thought of and was just overall an incredibly rare find. Unfortunately we have lost a record of what he charged, but recall that it was an incredibly reasonable amount. His contact details for anyone heading that way are + (34) 647806583 or email: r_naylor1@yahoo.es Wednesday 8 DecemberA most welcome day at sea for rest and relaxation. Managed to tour around the ship which is really lovelyThursday 9 DecemberCasablanca, Morocco and a great tour with Jamal Jamali from Jamal Tours jamaltour1@gmail.com Once again we had found recommendations for him on the internet. It was extremely hot, windy and dusty and quite honestly we couldn't wait to get back to the ship however Ricks Cafe was really worth visiting. Cost for this tour was € 45 per person and aside from Ricks Cafe, we were taken to the regular attractions such as the March Central Souks, Habbous Quarter, Royal Palace and the Hassan Mosque. Friday 10 DecemberAgadir, Morocco. The port was disgusting, it was extremely hot, windy, dusty and piles and piles of charcoal were on the dockside blowing directly onto our ships balconies due to the wind. My father was now really struggling with his chest and was taking huge strain. Once again, we had pre-booked a tour with Josie of Erlebnis Tours. We were obliged to pay upfront via paypal in pounds (£ 180). We were met at the port by 2 of their guides and a driver, the seats in the van were falling apart, extremely uncomfortable, no air-conditioning here! We were taken to the souk and to the medina and then to do camel riding. The cost of the camel riding was supposed to be included in the payment we had made however we were "nudged" into paying an extra $ 100 by our guide after only 4 of us actually rode on the camels. One of the guides also continuously took photos of our 20 year old daughter riding a camel (especially when her dress blew up in the wind) and made her feel extremely uncomfortable. We actually cut our tour short by a number of hours to get back to the comfort of the ship, as we were now no longer felt comfortable with these guides. I must complement Josie however as I contacted her on our return and they have agreed to refund us the $100 dollars (which was not the point, but appreciated) and also asked us for a report to enable them to take the necessary disciplinary steps.I must say that we could not wait to get out of Agadir (and Morocco for that matter) and have no intention of ever willingly returning there.Saturday 11 - Wednesday 15 December 2010Although the luggage issue was continuing in the background, we managed to unwind and thoroughly enjoyed these 5 days at sea, which included a hilarious crossing the line ceremony.Thursday 16 December 2010We were meant to visit Recife, Brazil however whilst crossing the Atlantic we were informed that due to problems with the emigration authorities we would be rather docking at Salvador,Brazil luckily we had not made plans for Recife so the change in plans did not affect us at all and we ended up having a great time visiting the local market and then the beach which was insanely crowded so we ended up drinking squeezed sugar cane(an acquired taste I would think) and people watching whilst our kids went for a dip in the ocean, interesting and fun.Friday 17 - Saturday 18 December 20102 more relaxing days at seaSunday 19 December - Tuesday 21 December 2010Aside from the luggage saga that boiled over here in Rio De Janeiro, where the ship docked for 3 days,the tour company that we had pre-booked to look after our family of 7, (including our elderly parents) whilst in Rio were truly amazing. We have travelled on many cruise ships on numerous occasions, but have never come across a more professional, well run, caring and wonderful company, Rio Plus www.rioplus.net / www.rioplustours.com Valeria Radesca (co-owner) was our guide for the 3 days we were there. Valeria looked after us completely from start to finish, took us to all the sights, went out of her way to accommodate the children's interests (which we had not pre-arranged), arranged wheelchairs for my parents (cost for both wheelchairs for 3 days $ 90 total), booked and took us to Porcao restaurant for supper- best seats in the house! (cost approx $ 95 per person including our drinks, an absolute MUST in Rio, wonderful, wonderful experience all round!) Valeria also took us to the Samba show at Plataforma, again best seats (show a bit over-rated in our opinion, cost $ 78 per person but very full and clearly enjoyed by other tourists). Valeria looked after us like a true professional and nothing was too much for her. Total amount we paid Valeria for the 3 days was $ 1 120, ie approx $ 370 per day in an air-conditioned van. She structured wonderful tours for us, which included all the must see sights, (La Boca, Pink palace, Christ Redeemer statue, Sugar Loaf, Tijuca forest), took our kids hang-gliding, took us to Copacabana beach and Ipanema market & beach. Valeria did this in such a way that it was not too much for my parents in that we had plenty of "time out" without rushing. Additionally she ran around to sort out and ensure we finally received my fathers luggage (that had been lost by the airline in Rome on 2 December and finally caught up with us here!) and did not charge extra for any of this, not even her loads of phone calls that she had made on our behalf for the luggage saga! This company truly deserves all the rave reviews and recommendations that they have on the internetOn Tuesday 21 December, we departed for our cruise to Antarctica with missing luggage now in tow and with my fathers health improving.Our next great adventure was begining!As there were only a few port days that now followed, I have combined this part of our cruise into a general summary:Tuesday 21 December 2010 - Sunday 9 January 2011From Rio we stopped in Montevideo, Uruguay to enable Star Princess to stock up before heading for Antarctica. Montevideo is incredibly tourist friendly, even painting a walkway on their sidewalks all the way from the port into town to enable tourists to know exactly where to go! Lovely little shops, lovely restaurants with wonderful meat and of course, you really have to eat at their large market, the Mercado del Puerto which is a bit on the expensive side, but with large delicious portions and a truly wonderful experience (the meat is all around you cooking barbecue style). We also stopped at Stanley for a day which was rather fun, although very cold. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and even although our passengers tripled their population a large portion of their town (including restaurants) were closed!We reached Antarctica on Tuesday 28 December and we were blown away. Words cannot describe the amazing scenery, the beauty of life, the stillness and incredible mass of "nothingness". We could not get enough of it and although extremely cold, we could not be torn away from our balcony. We were extremely lucky with the weather and although the weather in Antarctica changes within minutes from hurricane force winds(100mph) to complete calm, or from snow storms to sun (we experienced all of these changes), we really did not mind, we just absorbed all of it's sheer beauty. Captain Ed Perin, together with the "Ice Captain", Bob and lecturers, Esther & Chris, went out of their way to ensure that each and every passenger had an enlightening, knowledge filled, interesting and truly amazing experience. Some of the amazing wildlife we saw included various species of albatross, (including the wandering and sooty), giant kelp gulls, gentoo, magellanic and chinstrap penguins, crab eating seals, minke, hump back and blue whale (my husband and I were sitting late one night on our balcony when we spotted this enourmous blue whale in the distance, truly an amazing moment, as they are so rare!). We also saw 3-4 pods of orca's, We sadly left Antarctica on Friday 31 December, but the staff on Princess really cheered us up with an amazing New Years Eve party. Everyone on the ship was in party mode, from youngest to oldest and no matter where we were on the ship there was a wonderful vibe right into the early hours of the morning! The staff really did themselves proud.We docked at Ushuai, Argentina and Punta Arenas, Chile for a day each on our way back to Brazil and although both places were pleasant enough and fun to see, no real highlights here except we saw a wonderful museum in Punta Arenas, which highlighted the indigenous Indians culture and had some amazing shrunken human heads with fossil remains of a giant sloth - great fun.The Chilean Fjords and Beagle Channel were exquisite and surreal, comparing in their own way with the Norwegian Fjords. It is here that one truly sees how we, as human beings are destroying the little we have left in natural beauty with glaciers melting before our eyes!The most exciting wildlife we saw in the channel happened one night when we returned from dinner and were looking over the balcony when suddenly we saw schools of what looked to us like giant 80 pound black and white fish swimming towards the lights of the ship and which we later found out were extremly rare commersons dolphinsOn Thursday 6 January, (our daughter's 21st birthday!) we arrived in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. From what information we had gleened, we knew that this was the place to see huge penguin colonies, elephant seals, etc, but we had not pre-booked any tours ahead of time as, due to my daughters 21st, we wanted her to make the decisions of what to do on that day. Our day was truly hysterical - read on!!! We got off the ship and lined up on the dock were a number of tour companies, with tables and mini-vans, selling their tour packages. We approached an interesting looking table where a representative of Mabyrob Tours was recruiting passengers to her company and who spoke good english. We indicated that there were 5 of us (my parents wanted to stay on the ship) who wanted to go to the palaentology museum (which has 12 dinosaur skeletons), go to the nearby Welsh village for tea (where Princess Diana apparently had been) and go and see Elephant seals at Punta Loma. She told us that this would be no problem and that we could fit all 3 of these options in without a problem and be back at the ship in 4 ½ hours, plenty of time! She informed us that she already had 4 ship passengers waiting in the van and that if we joined this tour, we could leave immediately and she would charge us a discounted rate of $60 per person, which would include our entrance fees, as well as tea at the Welsh Village. Off we went (we had now met our fellow tourists, 2 American woman and a Dutch couple) with a tour guide, driver and a third person, who we discovered within the first 5 minutes was a translator, as our guide could not speak English. Well, our translator could not either, so we were left with incomplete translations and innuendo's and no way of knowing what was happening, where we were, where we were going, etc. The van's audio system did not work, so the guide would tell our translator in loud Spanish what she wanted to say, he would in turn give us some non-sensical explanation, we would all laugh hysterically and the pattern would repeat itself. After driving for 2 hours, but having been told that the trip to the Welsh village was 1 hours away, we managed to extract from our translator that we were about to arrive at the Welsh village and he wanted to know whether we wanted to eat lunch before we went to this village or afterwards. We were confused as lunch was never given to us as an option on this tour, we were supposed to be having high tea at the same place that Princess Di had done. All 9 of us on tour now indicated to him that this trip was taking a lot longer than we had been told and that we therefore were not concerned with lunch, we would be quite happy with tea, as promised. About 15 minutes later, (after our main non-english speaking guide had sung us 4 Welsh songs in a row, extremely badly I may add!) we drove into this absolute hell hole and our van suddenly stopped on the side of a road next to a swing bridge with litter all around the streets and on the swing bridge itself. We all looked at each other in amazement as we were probably in the dirtiest, ugliest, poorest looking place we certainly had ever seen, but our translator informed us that we were here to take pictures of the swing bridge. We were now all starting to feel somewhat uncomfortable, but got out and took the mandatory photos to humour our guide. When we got back into the van, we continued driving and after about 5 minutes we realised we were now heading out the same way as we had come. After speaking amongst ourselves, we then confronted our translator who informed us that we were unable to have tea in the Welsh village, as it was closed! (This was at 1.30pm, closed??) and unfortunately we could also now not go to the paleantology museum as it would take us 2 hours to go through it and we would run out of time! One of the American woman then took control (which was wonderful, I had had enough fighting for one holiday!) and demanded that we be taken to the museum. We then drove for at least another hour before our van suddenly came to a shuddering halt at the side of the road, we had broken down! Fortunately the musuem was a block away so we walked there whilst our driver tried to fix the van accompanied by our translator and guide. At the entrance office we were informed that the entrance fee was $ 15 each, we waited for our guide to pay (as this was included in our tour price), but we were told by our translator that we had to pay if we wanted to go in. Considering that we had been told what a wonderful museum this was (confirmed by our translator who said it took 2 hours to see properly), we decided to pay regardless and went in. (the Americans also did, the Dutch couple refused and waited outside). We walked through this museum and after approximately 10 minutes we realised we were back at the entrance. Back inside we went, thinking that we had clearly missed some turns or doors somewhere, but we discovered that what we had seen was the entire museum! This was confirmed by the Americans who had taken only 5 minutes to finish! We were now all really feeling conned.Our van was outside waiting for us when we got out and off on our journey we went. We now were to be taken to Punta Loma where we could supposedly see Elephant seals. This turned out to be at least another hours drive on a dirt road and we really thought that we were going to die, considering the speed our driver was doing. Our American friend was now completely fed up and had demanded her money back, so our translator was busy trying to speak to someone on the phone, whilst our spanish guide had now decided that she was no longer going to speak to us at all and sulked for the rest of the trip! We finally arrived at the seal colony, only to have to pay another entrance fee of $7 each. Although we saw a colony of fur seals quite a distance away, the fur seals at the harbour next to the ship were much closer. There were certainly no Elephant seals!We finally left to return to our ship, once again on the dirt roads at great speed. Our van broke down twice, fortunately the 2nd time was in town and we could see our ship, so our family (5 of us) jumped out and walked the remaining 2 km's back to the ship. The other 4 arrived back on the ship just in time for departing! We will never forget our daughters 21st!9 January 2011, disembarkation dayWe arrived in Buenos Aires where we had been given a disembarkation time slot of 9am. I am an early riser, but my family are not. I do however enjoy the peace and quiet of the morning with my usual cup or 2 of morning coffee. So, what a shock when I phoned room service for my regular coffee order only to be told that there was no room service on disembarkation days! No warning, nothing mentioned in the daily Princess Patter, really got the feeling that we were now no longer wanted by Star Princess. What is the reason for stopping morning coffee for those of us who wake up early? I totally understand a cut-off time, but we have paid to enjoy our cruise to the very end - This is really a policy that Princess should be reviewing! We duly went off for breakfast and were ready and waiting at our disembarkation area by 8.45 am. We were called just after 9am and this was most definately the worst disembarkation we have ever experienced A bus was waiting to take our group to the terminal, we could not see any Princess staff anywhere to assist my elderly parents, we felt a bit like cattle being squashed into a wagon with only standing room left for my parents! On arrival at the terminal there were no trolleys, no Princess staff (that we could see), it was pure chaos as we all hunted down our luggage! We sent our children off to find trolleys for our family of 7, which they finally managed to do outside the terminal building and we loaded our 5 trolleys that we needed. We then had to proceed through an x-ray machine which once again was not been controlled and the staff working the x-ray machine did not stop the machine at all, (as would be appropriate to assist us to grab our luggage flying through on the other side) - the luggage was literally flying off the machine! Items from hand luggage were falling out, people were grabbing items on, next to and under the machine, but it still was not stopped, even for a second! I have never seen such chaos in my life! After we managed to get all our luggage back together and repack the trolleys, we felt like we had run a marathon! Not good enough Star Princess, treat your passengers properly to the end!To be fair, I feel that at this point I need to add in the positives about Star Princess:The ship itself is amazing , beautifully appointed, we loved the overall decor and look of the ship itself with a stunning atrium, excellent shops and lovely wine bar, cafe on deck 5. We loved our cabin (E729) which is covered and has an extra large balcony. We dined at the Amalfi dining room, second sitting and received the best service we have ever had at on any cruise ship. Our head waiter, Andreas; our waiter, Juro; and wine steward, Israel could not do enough for us. As a result of their wonderful attention we only ended up eating "away" once at a speciality restaurant and enjoyed 3 special birthday celebrations with our three musketeers (Andreas was so exceptional that we noticed everynight how he would make himself available to escort an elderly single lady traveller from the entrance of the dining room to her table, a great level of extra attention!)The food overall was great, but got a little tedious after 36 days, but again our breakfasts were enhanced by the friendly staff at the Horizon Buffett, expecially Kevin who met us with a smile and our toast every morning. Apart from our dining experience, we found all of the staff on board friendly and attentive, special mention deserved here for Chris & Mike at Facets shop; James & Nicole in the photo department, as well as waitrons Charles, Olga and Tatiana.The cruise director, Frank was doing his best but came across a little "camp counsellerish" which could be annoying. The Captain, Ed Perrin, was fantastic - we really enjoyed hearing from him and felt very comfortable in his hands during a 100mph hurricane wind which crept up in Antarctica. He also tried his best to ensure that everyone on both sides of the ship got to see as much as possible. Carrie-Anne at the front desk was always incredibly professional and calm and was actually the only staff member at the front desk that seemed to know exactly what to do, when and how. If we wanted correct information or expected action and an answer, we would make sure we only dealt with her.Would we travel on Star Princess again? Yes, absolutely, although would now like to try their smaller ships and have booked Ocean Princess for a 48 day cruise from Rome to Sydney in October 2011.On our arrival in Buenos Aires, we had pre-arranged with Madi Lang from BA Cultural Concierge www.SendLoveBA.com / www.BACulturalConcierge.com to collect us from the ship and transfer us to our hotel ($ 72), The Alvear Palace which was truly amazing - we were upgraded from a mini-suite to a suite at no extra cost and will always remember languishing in our magnificent Jacuzzi with gold fittings whilst watching the flat screen tv in the bathroom. The service at the hotel was courteous and friendly and the porters even assisted us in weighing all our luggage (a lot!). The only slight negative was that the butler service was totally over-rated and I have certainly had better breakfasts. Overall however, I would most definitely recommend this hotel and would most certainly return. We had also arranged for Madi (BA Cultural Concierge) to look after us and take us on tour for the 3 days we were in Buenos Aires and she was really attentive and also looked after us extremely well, specifically my elderly parents. We were taken to all the tourist hot spots and sights, we had a great time with her (she is actually a young American who now lives in Buenos Aires and who started this tour company). I would thoroughly recommend her. Her rate for the 2 days was $ 468 and it was worth it. La Boca is a must and if possible and you are there on a Sunday, do not miss the San Telmo market. We also went to the Esquina Carlos Gardel for a tango show with dinner and chose the VIP tickets, which included transport to and from our hotel. These tickets were rather pricey at $ 215-00 each for show and dinner, but the alternative was way too cramped. The meal was great, the show was good, not brilliant, but be warned that you are expected to tip 15% of the total bill when paying which is a bit of a tourist trap, as the meal portion of your ticket should be the amount your tip is worked out on!On our last evening, we had a wonderful dinner at Cabana Las Lilas steakhouse, where the men in our party tried their lunck at the 800gram steak - good value for money at $64 each including our drinks. A wonderful way to end our holiday!Tuesday 11 January 2011· We were collected from our hotel by Madi and taken to Pistarini airport in Buenos Aires for check in for our Lan airlines flight (which is operated by Tam Air) to Sao Paulo, where we then connected with our SAA flight back to Johannesburg. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We flew to Rome on Monday and spent three nights there. Then we were escorted to the Port of Rome for our ten day trip. The ship is so beautiful. It was the 11th cruise my husband and I have taken and this was the most beautiful ship of ... Read More
We flew to Rome on Monday and spent three nights there. Then we were escorted to the Port of Rome for our ten day trip. The ship is so beautiful. It was the 11th cruise my husband and I have taken and this was the most beautiful ship of all. Our cabin had a balcony, which we have gotten use to inn the last 5 cruises. The staff was excellent. We had wonderful bathrobes waiting in our closet. The bathroom was large and every well accomadated. The nicest one we have found so far. The bed was very comfortable. Overall we loved this ship. The food was excellent. Reviews on this board had us worried about the food. But, it seems they have gotten a new chef from France recently and he did a wonderful job. Each night we were able to have escargot if we wanted it. We had duck, lobster, lamb, prime rib, etc. The portions were huge. The salads were very unique each evening. One thing, you did not get to eat in the dinning room at lunch. That was different for us. But, the buffett was the best I have ever seen. The selections were excellent and I am sure no one went hungry. For the first time ever I did not mind eating at the buffett. The entertainment was no so good. The usual type of entertainment and nothing to rave about. The ports were great. Ephesus was the main attraction. We chose a private tour for that as well and Athens. Used the ship's shore excursions for all other ports. The tours became a little of the same after a while. All of the Greek Islands were basically the same sites. They were beautiful, but after a while the ruins got to all run together in our minds. Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast were my favorite. Things that were not as great as other ships...they seem to no longer make the little animals out of the towels for your room. I noticed this on the last two Princess cruises as well. The photos of you coming on the ship and off were poor. The gladiator and Roman had on tennis shoes. Who wants a picture with the Roman wearing tennis shoes? Not us. There was no meet the Captain personally. He was on the stage at the theatre and spoke to everyone as a group. What's up with that? It use to be so nice to get your picture taken with the captain. No more. And the champagne was awful with no appetizers like you usually have. It was not a party at all. But, I don't want to be negative. The cruise was wonderful. The staff was excellent. The ship is just beautiful. I would go on it again. The ports were great. We had not been to any of them except Rome and Naples and even enjoyed repeating those. I would highly recommend the Solstice. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We arrived at the port of Civitavecchia on Nov 15th for a cruise starting on Nov 18th. What a wonderful little port town to stay in and to visit the market and walk around with the locals. We stayed at the Hotel Bramante and beautiful ... Read More
We arrived at the port of Civitavecchia on Nov 15th for a cruise starting on Nov 18th. What a wonderful little port town to stay in and to visit the market and walk around with the locals. We stayed at the Hotel Bramante and beautiful small 14 room hotel that treated us like we were part of their family. When we embarked we were amazed at how many people had booked the entire 33 day cruise. It was a memorable cruise with ports of historical value that will be ever present in our minds. To see the buildings and ruins of the past thousands of years and be comforted by the return to the safety of our ship. Some of the places that we visited were pretty disgusting in Egypt. Thank goodness we saw the pyramids and the sphinx, as we will never return to Egypt. We could not believe that they were pushing their garbage into the "blue" Nile river. The Grand Princess could use a little face lift but they were working hard on redoing floors and public areas while we were in various ports. Never having been at sea during the Thanksgiving Holiday (American) nor the preparatory Christmas season we were both surprised and wonder-struck by what the ship staff accomplished in the over night periods. This total cruise was above and beyond our expectations in every way possible from the ports of call to the staff and the festival spirit of the ship. Would we do it again without Egypt - yes in a heart beat. PS B748 beautiful colors and an awesome balcony. There really are no negatives about this cabin. Back of the ship great evening views and leaving ports. Super for taking pictures. Slept like a log for 33 nights:) Read Less
Sail Date November 2009

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